[Fix] Error “Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture”

When you try to preview an image file (JPEG/PNG) using Windows Photo Viewer, the preview would be blank and the following error message is displayed:

Windows Photo Viewer can't display this picture because there might not be enough memory available on your computer. Close some programs that you aren't using or free some hard disk space (if it's almost full), and then try again.

windows photo viewer cannot display image - not enough memory - icc profile metadata

It’s a misleading error message, as in most cases, it may not have anything to do with the system memory. The Windows Photo Viewer error is caused due to color profile metadata (ICC_Profile) embedded into the JPG image(s).

(You can reproduce the issue by transferring images from your Android/iOS mobile and previewing the image using Windows Photo Viewer on your computer. Another possibility is that your system has multiple video cards and the issue happens on the secondary graphics card only. Switching over to the primary video card may resolve the error.)

However, other utilities like IrfanView, GIMP, or the built-in/modern Photos app would be able to open the image correctly. This issue is limited to Windows Photo Viewer (and perhaps Windows Live Photo Gallery) only.

[Fix] Error “Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture”

To resolve the error “Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture”, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the Color Control Panel applet by running colorcpl.exe from the Run dialog. Alternately, you can open the classic Control Panel, All Control Panel Items, and click Color Management.
  2. In the Devices tab, select each ICC profile and click on the Remove button. Remove every profile listed on that page.
    windows photo viewer cannot display image - not enough memory - icc profile metadata
  3. When you see the “This color profile is the default profile for this device. Are you sure you want to disassociate it from the device?” message, click Continue.
    windows photo viewer cannot display image - not enough memory - icc profile metadata
  4. Next, click on the Advanced tab.
    windows photo viewer cannot display image - not enough memory - icc profile metadata
  5. Select “Agfa: Swop Standard” from the Device profile dropdown list box. This is the most important step!
    (Selecting the system default setting “System default (sRGB IEC61966-2.1)” is the root cause for the error in Windows Photo Viewer.)
  6. Click OK.

You should now be able to preview the JPEG files successfully!

Workaround

Selecting the “Agfa: Swop Standard” profile ought to fix the issue in most cases. In case you don’t want to change the default device profile, there is a workaround for you.

The trick is to delete the ICC_Profile metadata selectively from each JPEG image file. To do so, you can rely on the third-party utility named ExifTool, or the ExifToolGUI tool.

ExifToolGUI

ExifToolGUI is a front-end for the ExifTool command-line tool. ExifToolGUI needs the ExifTool.exe command-line tool in the same folder in order to run correctly.

Here are the download links for both:

Latest ExiftoolGUI version 5.16:
https://exiftool.org/forum/index.php?topic=2750.0

ExifTool by Phil Harvey:
https://exiftool.org/

Start ExifToolGUI and select the folder/file (multiple selections of files are allowed). Note that the ICC_Profile metadata is visible for the chosen file, in the right pane.

exiftool remove icc_profile

Click on the Modify menu, and click Remove metadata…

Select “-ICC Profile” checkbox (only) and click Execute.

exiftool remove icc_profile



That’s it. The ICC_Profile color space metadata is now stripped off from the selected JPG file(s).

exiftool remove icc_profile

Here’s the comparison of file metadata before and after stripping the ICC color space information.

::BEFORE::

---- File ----
File Name : 20211203_111045.jpg
Directory : .
File Size : 920 KiB
File Modification Date/Time : 2022:01:03 17:08:30+05:30
File Access Date/Time : 2022:01:03 18:12:28+05:30
File Creation Date/Time : 2022:01:03 17:08:30+05:30
File Permissions : -rw-rw-rw-
File Type : JPEG
File Type Extension : jpg
MIME Type : image/jpeg
Exif Byte Order : Big-endian (Motorola, MM)
Image Width : 1681
Image Height : 1261
Encoding Process : Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
Bits Per Sample : 8
Color Components : 3
Y Cb Cr Sub Sampling : YCbCr4:2:0 (2 2)
---- EXIF ----
Image Width : 1681
Camera Model Name : SM-A315F
Image Height : 1261
Make : samsung
Date/Time Original : 2021:12:03 11:10:45
Light Source : Unknown
Orientation : Rotate 90 CW
Modify Date : 2021:12:03 11:10:45
---- JFIF ----
JFIF Version : 1.01
Resolution Unit : None
X Resolution : 1
Y Resolution : 1
---- ICC_Profile ----
Profile CMM Type : 
Profile Version : 2.1.0
Profile Class : Display Device Profile
Color Space Data : RGB
Profile Connection Space : XYZ
Profile Date Time : 0000:00:00 00:00:00
Profile File Signature : acsp
Primary Platform : Unknown ()
CMM Flags : Not Embedded, Independent
Device Manufacturer : 
Device Model : 
Device Attributes : Reflective, Glossy, Positive, Color
Rendering Intent : Media-Relative Colorimetric
Connection Space Illuminant : 0.9642 1 0.82491
Profile Creator : 
Profile ID : 0
Profile Description : sRGB
Red Matrix Column : 0.43607 0.22249 0.01392
Green Matrix Column : 0.38515 0.71687 0.09708
Blue Matrix Column : 0.14307 0.06061 0.7141
Red Tone Reproduction Curve : (Binary data 40 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Green Tone Reproduction Curve : (Binary data 40 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Blue Tone Reproduction Curve : (Binary data 40 bytes, use -b option to extract)
Media White Point : 0.9642 1 0.82491
Profile Copyright : Google Inc. 2016
---- Composite ----
Image Size : 1681x1261
Megapixels : 2.1


::AFTER::

---- File ----
File Name : 20211203_111045.jpg
Directory : .
File Size : 919 KiB
File Modification Date/Time : 2022:01:03 18:15:27+05:30
File Access Date/Time : 2022:01:03 18:35:20+05:30
File Creation Date/Time : 2022:01:03 17:08:30+05:30
File Permissions : -rw-rw-rw-
File Type : JPEG
File Type Extension : jpg
MIME Type : image/jpeg
Exif Byte Order : Big-endian (Motorola, MM)
Image Width : 1681
Image Height : 1261
Encoding Process : Baseline DCT, Huffman coding
Bits Per Sample : 8
Color Components : 3
Y Cb Cr Sub Sampling : YCbCr4:2:0 (2 2)
---- EXIF ----
Image Width : 1681
Camera Model Name : SM-A315F
Image Height : 1261
Make : samsung
Date/Time Original : 2021:12:03 11:10:45
Light Source : Unknown
Orientation : Rotate 90 CW
Modify Date : 2021:12:03 11:10:45
---- JFIF ----
JFIF Version : 1.01
Resolution Unit : None
X Resolution : 1
Y Resolution : 1
---- Composite ----
Image Size : 1681x1261
Megapixels : 2.1


ExifTool

If you don’t want an extra GUI tool for the task, you can run the ExifTool command-line tool itself to accomplish the task.

You use the following syntax to remove the ICC_Profile metadata for a file.

exiftool -ICC_Profile=  D:\Photos\MyPhoto.jpg

You can also execute the tool on all JPEG files in a folder by using wildcard.

exiftool -ICC_Profile=  D:\Photos\*.jpg

exiftool remove icc_profile

That’s it! ExifTool is an excellent tool that lets you strip off specific metadata without erasing the other useful meta information such as Date, Camera, GeoTagged data, etc.

Adobe Photoshop user?

If you’re a Photoshop user, to strip off the ICC_Profile metadata, you can open the image in Photoshop and save it with another name. In the Save as dialog, make sure to uncheck the “ICC Profile: sRGB IEC61966-2.1” option when saving the JPG file with Photoshop. This makes the JPEG file compatible with Windows Photo Viewer.

Note that the Windows Spotlight images don’t have the ICC color profile metadata attached to them; most of the metadata including the Camera information is stripped. However, some Spotlight images may have the location information intact.


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Ramesh Srinivasan is passionate about Microsoft technologies and he has been a consecutive ten-time recipient of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional award in the Windows Shell/Desktop Experience category, from 2003 to 2012. He loves to troubleshoot and write about Windows. Ramesh founded Winhelponline.com in 2005.

18 thoughts on “[Fix] Error “Windows Photo Viewer can’t display this picture””

  1. Ours worked differently, most probably because we use terminal servers, skipped ahead and step 4 was the key. Fantastic!!

    Now we’re just looking for the reg key, that should be simple enough if it is a registry setting. The issue with these settings they are per person, not per server.

    Then we can roll it out to the 550 users.

    Ramesh thank you, you have no idea how many documents we’ve had to convert to pdf, our staff gets almost all proof of payments in these jpg formats.

    Reply
    • @ReneF: Here’s the registry file that can automate the (per-user) setting.

      Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
      
      [HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\ICM\RegisteredProfiles]
      "sRGB"="RSWOP.icm"
      
  2. Thank you so much. Part of the first method worked fine: I changed the Device profile setting from System Default to Agfa: Swop Standard and it fixed the issue. Thanks again 🙂

    Reply

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